Finding The GOAT Group: The Pharcyde vs. Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth. Who Is Better?

“Finding the GOAT Group,” the fourth installment of Ambrosia For Heads’ annual competition series features Hip-Hop’s greatest collectives vying for the #1 spot. Sixty-two groups have been pre-selected by a panel of experts, and one slot will be reserved for a wild-card entry (which has been determined), including the possibility for write-in candidates, to ensure no deserving band of MCs and DJs is neglected. The 2018 contest consists of seven rounds, NCAA basketball-tournament style, leading to a Top 32, then the Sweet 16 and so on, until one winner is determined. For each match-up, two groups are pitted against one another with a ballot to decide which one advances to the next round. Though there will be an enormous amount of debate in comments, on social media, in barbershops and text messages, which we encourage, only votes cast in the official ballot count.

In 1992, The Pharcyde and Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth each released masterful full-length debut albums. From opposite coasts, both groups evolved with celebrated follow-up releases within three years later. However, that’s where the train and the tracks for both outfits separated. By the early 2000s, The Pharcyde fractured into solo pursuits while the namesake carried on—reduced to Bootie Brown and Imani. Meanwhile, for the last 25 years, Pete and Corey released just a handful of reunion records, holding back on an anticipated third album. The Pharcyde and Pete and C.L. have done shows together, and reports linger of more group work to come. However, the final Round 2 match-up is one that largely lives in ’90s nostalgia. With cult followings to each squad, every vote will count in sending some creative artists onward in the bracket.

The Pharcyde

(defeated Blackalicious in Round 1, 83% to 17%)

From South Central Los Angeles, The Pharcyde (Imani, Bootie Brown, Slimkid3 and Fatlip) released their Delicious Vinyl debut, Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde, in 1992. Made a year after the crew’s formation, the gold-certified album gave the group a taste of crossover success. Unlike local contemporaries, The Pharcyde repped the hood without glorifying. Instead, these battle-tested MCs waxed clever concepts, used Everyman themes, and created a different sound that fit the SoCal vibes. Sophomore album Labcabincalifornia pivoted to more maturity and outside production to complement the styles from the likes of J Dilla and Diamond D. Ahead of Y2K, The Pharcyde shifted. Fatlip exited, followed by Tre. For the early 2000s, Imani and Bootie released solid efforts that predictably lacked the excitement and vocal versatility of the first two. After a reunion tour in the last decade, The Pharcyde still exists, but in two factions. When it comes to the first two LPs, this crew left an indelible mark on Hip-Hop.

Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth

(defeated Camp Lo in Round 1, 85% to 15%)

The Mount Vernon and New Rochelle duo (respectively) have earned a legendary place as soul controllers of Hip-Hop. Pete Rock held his finest productions for his group, and sometimes blessed the mic. Meanwhile, C.L. Smooth’s buttery vocal, conversational flow, and songwriting from the heart resonated perfectly right alongside the samples and drum programming. The duo’s 1992 full-length debut, Mecca And The Soul Brother, is one of Hip-Hop’s top-notch examples of MC/producer chemistry. After one more LP two years later, the group ceased album operations. However, some a la carte reunion tracks have lived up to the legacy. As reports linger that another album is coming, Pete and C.L. have long cemented an elite place in the Rap sphere.

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So who is the better Hip-Hop group? Make sure you vote above.